Few would imagine that college professors are raking in the bills during a severe economic downturn. Yet one Columbia professor is doing just that. Some University employees are making far more than many might expect—sometimes, as in the case of David Silvers, as much as $4.3 million in 2007.
In a report released on Monday detailing the salaries of college presidents and employees, the Chronicle of Higher Education wrote that Silvers, a Columbia professor of dermatology, is the second-highest earner at any private college. Silvers’s salary was exceeded in the report only by that of University of Southern California head football coach Pete Carroll. The Chronicle explained its decision to release a report extending beyond presidents’ salaries, which it had released earlier, by saying in USA Today that it “contributes to the broader national discussion about appropriate levels of pay for leaders in all sectors.”
Silvers has been recognized as a high-earning employee in past reports, but this study specifically calls attention to the disparity between employees’ and presidents’ salaries. While some college employees’ salaries have continued to rise, presidents of a number of colleges have agreed to take pay cuts or otherwise give back part of their earnings in order to help their schools cope with the struggling economy. University President Lee Bollinger’s salary came under scrutiny in 2008 when the Chronicle’s report confirmed that it rose half a million dollars—he has said the increase incorporated the approval of his retirement package. In 2006-2007, Bollinger earned $1.4 million, about one quarter of Silvers’s pay.
Of the 88 employees in the Chronicle’s report who earned more than $1 million, 11 held chief executive posts— generally either president or chancellor.
“Dr. Silvers is renowned in the field and has significant responsibilities in directing this highly specialized lab at Columbia University Medical Center,” the University explained in a statement to the New York Daily News.